Before anything else, let me devote a few words to the fallen journalists and other victims of the brutal massacre that occurred last week in the southern province of Maguindanao. It's the most atrocious crime I've ever seen in the Philippines--a big black eye that overshadowed the recent victories of Filipinos Manny Pacquiao (unprecedented 7th title in 7th weight division) and Efren Penaflorida (CNN Hero of the Year).
This barbaric act is, of course, an absolute aberration and does not represent even an iota of the culture and values of Filipinos. Along with the rest of my countrymen, I am fervently hoping and praying that justice will be served in the soonest possible time and that this kind of unspeakable bloodshed will never be repeated.
For the regular readers of this blog (I hope there are a few of you out there), allow me to apologize for not making an updated post in the last few days since I was away covering an event in the U.S. and got waylaid by a bum stomach upon returning home.
During my stay there, I met up with college mates who drove me around the beautiful city of San Francisco and to Las Vegas, Nevada. Just like in my earlier U.S. trips in which I was also able to meet other Filipino friends and acquaintances, I noticed that they relied heavily--if not fully--on their GPS device to navigate their way around.
GPS maps, undoubtedly, are a big help in finding their destinations especially since California alone is almost the twice the size of the entire Philippines. I was told by my friends that before GPS became pervasive about five or six years ago, they'd use maps downloaded from the Internet.
In the Philippines, GPS hasn't taken off yet in the same radical way. Sure, a slew of GSP-enabled devices--whether standalone or integrated in phones--has been introduced in the country in the last few years, but nobody uses them. If there are some who are using them, their number is probably nowhere near the critical mass.
Some would argue that GPS is not needed in the Philippines given the small geographic area of the country and the chaotic traffic system here. But let me tell you a little secret why people are not yet using their GPS gadgets: there's no comprehensive street-level digital map yet of the Philippines.
That's right, folks. The maps that you see inside your GPS-powered unit, like a Nokia N95 or HTC phone, are provided by a private third-party company, unlike in the U.S., for example, where a government-created satellite map is on tap virtually by anyone. Furthermore, these various private maps are mostly incomplete and are concentrated in urban areas.
I actually got this bit of information from a top official of a logistics company. The executive certainly knows what she was talking about because prior to putting up her company years back, she was the head of the digital mapping division of NAMRIA (National Mapping and Resource Information Authority), the mapping agency of the Philippine government.
Sad to say, she said, but the government has left the responsibility to map the Philippines to private corporations, which, of course, would charge users to recoup their investments.
She said that if the government does not have the money to undertake the mapping work, then perhaps it could partner with private firms who are doing the same thing. The could also go on its own and just charge royalties to businesses who may want to use it, the exec said.
I'm not sure if that arrangement would work but here's the point that I'd like to stress: the government must recognize the need to have a comprehensive map of the country.
Industry update It seems that Cris Concepcion, former sales head of Yahoo Philippines, has completely abandoned his medical profession to pursue his love for technology.
Concepcion, who is a physician by training, is now with broadcast giant ABS-CBN as head of its "New Media and Technology" division. Tech exec Arlene Amarante has been appointed earlier as Concepcion's replacement at Yahoo.